The new Masterpiece Theater season

 

Tonight, Masterpiece Theater features something from it’s ‘Classic’ series, The tale is ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles,’ which was written by Thomas Hardy and published in 1897. It drew much criticism as its heroine had premarital sex and was still portrayed as sympathetic.

I wish I could be more excited or engaged about this story since Hardy wrote such powerful stories. I suppose I feel that since Masterpiece Theater has changed reinvented itself over the past two years, that it could broaden its scope of stories that it presents. A very popular series of recent years for PBS has been African-American Lives, presented by noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, who in the 1980s helped to publish great literary works of Black Women through the Oxford University Press. I am puzzled why none of those stories make it to Masterpiece Theater. Why not a story like ‘Our Nig’ or ‘Iola Leroy’ or ‘Contending Forces’?

For Masterpiece Contemporary, there are no dearth of titles either. PBS saw fit to air the Tony Hillerman adaptations, which were fairly faithful and no less entertaining. There are other such stories out there.

It may seem as if I am advocating for more productions to be aired that feature more people of colour as central characters rather than sidekicks or magical Negros or creatures to be rescued or worse yet, invisible. You would be correct. May some of these stories are coming down the pipe. If they are, I take exception to them being aired during certain times of the year. Not all stories or issues having to do with African Americans need to be aired in February, just like all stories having to do with Native Americans don’t need to be only aired in November.

I know that money is tight for PBS. I do feel that if we stop being spoon fed these stories which are just more whiter shades of pale, that when PBS stations ask for pledges, more people will be willing to give because they will see that their diversity message is not lip service after all.

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